It's Miller Time! Why Mike Miller Can Take the Miami Heat to Another Level

Danny DolphinAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 04: Mike Miller #13 of the Miami Heat dribbles during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 4, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Miller is an integral part of the Heat's championship chase.

Many have questioned why I’ve been talking up Mike Miller like he’s the reincarnation of Reggie Miller.

I get that and I understand the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it ” mentality. And no I don’t think he’s as good as Miller was.

The Heat, despite losing a tough one last night in Los Angeles, have rolled to a 30-10 record, winning 20 of their last 22. Miller has been available for nearly a month now and has only logged 52 minutes over seven games.

Yes it’s tricky to mess with something going so well, but Miller’s impact can be the difference between the Heat being great and special. Outside of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, there is not a more versatile threat on the roster.

These games, in the grand scheme of things, do not matter, as Chris Bosh noted last night after the Clippers handed the Heat their first road loss in two months. Sure playoff positioning is important. But what matters the most, especially for this team, is if they’re playing elite basketball come playoff time and rolling on all cylinders.

Believe it or not, this Heat team is FAR from reaching its ceiling, and Mike is one of the pieces to get them closer. If the Heat’s potential is a 9.5, they’re playing at about a 7 right now. A frightening statement, I know.

Miller isn’t the type of player who can make an impact in two or three minutes here and there. He’s a high volume player who needs to get in a rhythm.

At his best, he’s a lights-out shooter, another playmaker on the ball, a savvy passer and one of the best rebounding wings in basketball. The numbers back this up as he led all shooting guards last season in true shooting percentage, rebound rate and assists ratio, all measures of efficiency.

He can play either wing position on both offense and defense and can even play as a stretch four against smaller teams. His handle allows him to even bring the ball up, but obviously he’d have a difficult time defending opposing point guards.

James Jones, one of the players ahead of him on the depth chart, has played admirably thus far. He’s shooting the ball from three at 42 percent a clip and leads the team in charges taken. He’s been a pleasant surprise to say the least.

But what Miller can provide is so much more than a spot-up shooter and good help defender, which is all Jones is at this point. I’m not saying take Jones out of the rotation, as he is valuable to this team on both ends of the court.

What I am saying is for the better of this team, they need to find a way to incorporate Miller into the rotation for a good 20-30 minutes a night. If that means lowering Jones’ minutes, so be it. If it means going less conventional and taking a point guard or center off the floor for spurts, great.

The bottom line is you want your five best players on the court as much as possible.

I don’t care how, but this guy needs to be a part of this. Teams win championships, and he is the fourth best player on this team without question.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has done a superb job with his garage of toys thus far, and I’m sure he will grant Miller his time as he says he will. Over the last week he has made it clear that Miller’s time is coming and he is a part of the “big picture.”

I don’t care how much Mike struggles to get integrated on the most talented team he’s ever played on. He could go 0-for-10 from the floor in three straight games for all I care. We could lose five in a row directly from his play. It won’t change my opinion of him.

There are going to be growing pains incorporating him, just as there were tough times at the beginning of the season when Wade and James were learning how to play together.

Look for Miller to get minutes tonight by default in Denver if LeBron’s injured ankle keeps him out, as expected. The mild injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Heat.

When you watch him play tonight, don’t just look at the shooting numbers. Dig deeper than that. Appreciate the intricacies of his game. Note his rebounding, ball handling and high basketball I.Q. You’ll begin to realize what he’s capable of on a team of this talent.

It’s Miller time.